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Super 8 (2011)
Not much going for it...
I have not seen anything from the series 'Lost' which made J.J. Abrams famous so I didn't come into this movie with high expectations and it's a good thing I didn't either. I just found so much of the action sequences flat, the characters weren't really all that engaging and the story pretty much non-existent. It had really good potential early on with the train crash and played the mystery up fairly well and then the payoff was just not there at all. So much of the action and the entire movie for that matter happens in darkness which makes it easy for F/X department but just made it confusing and tiring for me. The dialogue was hard to pick up, it seemed like the kids were mumbling a lot or something, and what lines you did hear was pure corn. I really have no idea why this was a period piece set in the late '70's either, there was really no reason for it and there was little there to indicate it was the '70's. There was a 'Super8' camera in use and they had to wait for the film to be developed but the 3 day wait wasn't much a of a plot device. Just a really poor movie with very little story, which basically hacked 'E.T' for inspiration. I was expecting something more from a Spielberg production. I get the feeling that Abrams was offered a shot at making a movie but he didn't really have much of an idea what to do for a movie. Very disappointing.
War Horse (2011)
A horse as metaphor....
If there was ever an event in history marking where the old world met the new industrialized one it was the First World War and Spielberg spares little time emphasizing the clash as soon as Joey (the horse) reaches France. Suffice to say it is short and brutal although Spielberg,throughout, does not make the movie a gore fest such as 'Saving PrivateRyan'. What I was most struck by was that Joey was a fast, powerful wonder but he never did learn to jump. A recent review from Liam Lacey of the Globe and Mail claimed that Spielberg made the horse mythic in power, indestructible. Far from it, Liam Lacey, and you have completely missed the point. Joey never learned to jump clear of the obstacles, he was only mortal and he was terrified of technology, demonstrated with his meeting of the new war machine, the tank. It was through the truce of two cultures, the the abandonment of conflict and the co-operation towards a common goal that saves Joey from being ignored and lost. A great movie from Spielberg to be sure, it is nice to see that he now has the might and power to take the time to make a movie such as this one that does not go for the plain and simple and tries to convey a message that we need to recognize in this 21st century. Very commendable.
Observe and Report (2009)
This was atrocious, offensive and completely abominable.
I get dark humour, I laughed at the 'Cable Guy' and would recommend it to almost anyone. This, on the other hand, is so twisted that you really gotta wonder what is going on in the director/writer's heads? Date rape is funny? Shooting a defenseless man in the chest is funny? Smashing up skater kids no older than 14 is funny? I guess it get's points for going where others would sensibly fear to tread but I seriously question Rogen's lack of moral compass here, this guy pushed to get this piece of crap in the theater's? For what reason? To prove he's emotionally stunted would be my guess but it's only a guess. By the way, Seth? Try and get shot in real life and then try to walk it off like so many seem to be able to do in your movies, lemme know how that works out for you. The acting, camera work, sound and soundtrack were all fine here, has good production values but the story and the characters are all from deep in left field, there is no one to like here and there is no redeeming facet to this mess. Just awful.
Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008)
One of the greatest documentaries I have ever seen
I saw an interview with these guys in some magazine recently and I didn't know if Anvil was an actual band and I was a bit of a Canadian metalhead teenager growing up in the '80's. So I go into this documentary not honestly knowing if it's a mockumentary for at least the first 10 minutes, I even thought the glowing testimonials from Slash and Lars were send ups. Finally, it became clear that these guys are for real and this film takes you all over the emotional spectrum in the process. The European tour has you laughing your head off and covering your eyes in disbelief as well. Then you meet the families and your heart nearly breaks for the support and love that these people have for their never-give-up metalheaded brethren. This was just a very, very good documentary, I don't think you would have to be a metal fan to enjoy this, these two guys are such great, sincere people that I think anyone could love them and root for them and you will if you take the time to watch. This film caught me totally off-guard, just really a great job by the director, Sacha Gervasi, to make you really care for these two guys and to be moved by their persistence and determination.
The Hangover (2009)
One of the funniest movies that I have seen in a loooong time.
I have to say that it was so refreshing to watch a comedy movie that had all the right elements going on and kept you there laughing even as the credits were rolling. Unbelievably good, very refreshing to see a great comedy when it seemed as if the whole genre was getting stale. What I liked most was this story just kept throwing one twist after another, your just completely left guessing as to what was going to happen next. The premise is the group has lost one of their foursome overnight and none of them can remember where he might have ended up. It's a great plot vehicle because you find yourself so intrigued as well and it almost plays out as a mystery, albeit, an extremely hilarious mystery movie. Just brilliant, inspired writing here, they took a great premise and really went with it and the movie does not let up. You get really hooked on the characters and I found myself rooting for them all and it makes for a really great ending. Simply great, best comedy I have seen in years.
A very fine piece of art.
This is such a welcome break from the usual that I had to pause and give praise. The lengthy title of the movie essentially explains the plot, a synopsis of events leading up to the assassination of Jesse James. The title character at this point has become somewhat of a tragic Shakespearean hero, full of doubt and fear, and his mind full of questions as to the loyalty of his minions. Pitt's performance is admirable, probably his best yet and I have much admiration as well for Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, who effectively conveys a young man who loses respect for his idol as he grows closer to him.
The real star of the movie in my mind, is the cinematographer, Roger Deakins, who use of subtle lighting, panoramic views of the Canadian prairies and the occasional blurred filters to convey a dreamlike quality when necessary. If I had one fault with the movie it would be that the poetic musings of these romanticized outlaws can be sometimes hard to make out clearly, but it is a small fault and it gives me good reason to watch it again, which I will very soon. Brad Pitt and Ridley Scott are to be commended for taking a hand in producing this lovely bit of cinema, it is not going to be a big money maker but certainly a work that all who were involved with must be very proud of. I always wonder if the western will ever become a genre that will run out of steam due to a sense of it's all been done now. After watching this, I can say that the western may never die as a genre. Absolutely beautiful.
The Meaning of Life (1983)
Another finger in the eye, poke, poke
Wildly uneven Python with some of their very best material but some scenes smack of filler. It's interesting to watch the interviews on the making of this one and I had read the book 'Monty Python Speaks'(my God, am I really a Python nerd?) and the Pythons almost seem apologetic about 'Meaning of Life' which is unfortunate, it did win the Jury Grand Prize at the Cannes film festival after all. Most of it is absolutely brilliant, just a true slap in the face to the politically correct. PC wasn't quite as rampant in 1983 but I think the Python's sensed it's oncoming and consequently made this movie. When the PC police took over the western world is when the Python's finally gave up, I suppose. Anyways, this movie takes on religion, yuppies, fish, obesity, live-organ donation, corporate greed, war, modern medicine, the after-life and a lot of British uptighted-ness which I suppose is why the French liked it so much. Again, not everyone's cup of tea, outrageous humour from some very repressed English lads that erupts into some very angry comedy that appeals to the demented ones such as myself. If you are truly upstanding and pathetically stunted then do not watch, this kind of entertainment is just going to horrify and offend you, if not, then enjoy to your heart's content because you will never again see anyone get away with this kind of humour.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
One man trying to get home for Thanksgiving, how can that be funny?
It can be outrageously funny if your an uptight guy like Neil Page (Steve Martin) who hooks up with a guy like Del Griffith(John Candy) and gets dropped in the middle of the American mid-west. Neil Page is one dry, too tight,suit-and-tie kinda guy that is trying to get from New York to Chicago. Unfortunately for him, the weather re-routes him and his plane to Wichita, Kansas. Simple enough right? It should be but it ain't because Neil has the misfortune of sharing the trip with a kind-hearted yet hugely irritating shower-curtain ring salesman named Del Griffith to help him on his way. From the moment these two meet in New York there are events that have to be seen to be believed. John Hughes is to be commended for making such a movie that you can watch again and again and never stop laughing from beginning to end. I think it is Hughes' keen eye for the Midwest that makes this movie so truly funny, very real characters at every stop that you can relate to and say, yeah, I remember a guy like that.
Most of all, however, is Del Griffith, John Candy's greatest role. Del is someone who everyone has met in their life and probably try to avoid for the most part but Hughes shows a man that has an unreal ability for irritation but within that is a person that is truly a warm hearted, lovable and real man as well. The ending will make you teary eyed unless you have a heart of stone. The rest of the movie will have you memorizing lines like 'those aren't pillows', 'people train runs outta Stubbville' and "Flintstones, meet the Flintstones". This movie was so overlooked at the time, a lot of it due to it's 'R' rating for a scene using the f-word 17 times, be warned, and consequently it may have lost a lot of audience due to that reason. As well, because it was a comedy, Candy got overlooked for a role that deserved, at least, a best actor Oscar nomination and that is no exaggeration. Ebert at least had the good sense to include this as one of the 100 greatest movies of all time and it certainly is that. In my opinion, the greatest comedy movie ever made.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
In my opinion, Coppola's best work
My favourite movie of all time. This was a flawed piece of work by Coppola and seeing the documentary 'Heart of Darkness' made it even more compelling. Coppola at this point was king of Hollywood after making 'the Godfather' and 'GodfatherII' and had developed the ego necessary to even dare try to make a movie like 'Apocalypse Now'. Through sheer arrogance he went to the Phillipines with a partial script and thought he would know what he would do when he got there. Just as Captain Willard thought he would know what to do once he got to Col. Kurtz's compound. And just like Willard, he DIDN'T know what he was going to do once he got there. This is such a masterpiece of American cinema, beautifully photographed and the river is such a perfect metaphor and backdrop for the story. What I like most about 'Apocalypse Now' is that it offers no answers or conclusions. Consequently, because of this open-endedness, it infuriates some viewers who like their movies to be much more obvious.
This movie defies categorization. Some call it a war movie which it isn't at all, really it is more of a personal study of man. The best pic about Vietnam is 'Platoon' in my opinion and if a viewer is seeking a retelling of the Vietnam War go there first for answers.
Coppola should be commended for his take on the bureaucracy of war which he conveys quite effectively with the meeting with Gen.Corman and Lucas (Harrison Ford) and the Playmate review. The sheer audacity of Kilgore makes him an unforgettable character and the dawn attack will always be a Hollywood classic.
It is an almost psychedelic cruise to a very surreal ending which makes it a movie not accessible to everyone. Very challenging to watch but rewarding as well. I could offer my explanations on each scene but that would be totally pointless. This movie is intended for interpretation and contemplation as opposed to immediate gratification.
A little footnote, definitely if your a first-time viewer of Apocalypse Now, watch the original version first, the 'Redux' version is, I think, more intended for the hardcore fan and is more of a curiosity than a 'new and improved' version of the movie
Mad Max 2 (1981)
the best movie Gibson has ever been in
The first time I saw this at a friends recommendation was in 1985 on our brand new VHS vcr. I was absolutely blown away by it at the age of 16 and I still watch every few months on DVD now.I would give anything to see this on a big screen. This movie started a real trend for a lot of real crappy B movies to follow unfortunately and Mel Gibson has called this movie with an apologetic shrug 'classy B-grade trash' which is sad because it would prove to be his best movie by far. What I truly liked about this film was its lack of dialogue and how it was smart enough to let its settings, action and costumes do the talking. Perhaps this is why Gibson didn't have much praise for it because he is merely a representation of the Western gunslinger in the film. I liked how there was a sketchy explanation of how the world got into such an apocalyptic mess and lets the viewer make their own conclusion to that end. It's not important anyways. The lack of ammunition is indicated quickly through the Wez's use of a wrist-strapped crossbow, the very preciousness of gasoline is established quickly as well by Max's anxious mopping up of it and capturing it in a few make-shift items including a dusty soldier's helmet.
The original Mad Max had too much dialogue and proved problematic for the 18 year old Gibson to convey the emotion of losing his family and best friend. It had it's moments but in the end it lost it's impact due to it's own clumsy attempt at trying to establish the family-man Max. The Road Warrior didn't try to attempt any deep characterizations, the pain and suffering was quick and obvious, the need to just survive in this stark world conveyed through a few spoken words and violent actions. George Miller got it right with this one, unfortunately he had to make Mad Max first to get to Mad MaxII and horribly had to make Mad MaxIII.